$500 FOR MY BARE LADY

By­ron skinny dip­pers in a naked rage over po­lice crack­down

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - SALLY COATES

A WO­MAN is re­fus­ing to pay a $500 fine she re­ceived for swim­ming naked at a renowned nud­ist spot.

“The fine is for of­fen­sive be­hav­iour – I’m 56 for God’s sake – how can some­one swim­ming naked be fined $500 for of­fen­sive be­hav­iour?” she said.

“For some­thing to be of­fen­sive some­one had to be of­fended and no­body was of­fended. No­body is look­ing at each other’s bod­ies, it’s just a beau­ti­ful free­dom.”

JUST over a week ago, By­ron Bay Su­per­in­ten­dent Wayne Star­ling stopped by Tya­garah Lakes, a pop­u­lar area for nude swim­ming, where sev­eral in­stances of sex­ual as­sault had been re­ported.

He wanted to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion first-hand be­fore tak­ing ac­tion on the mat­ter of pub­lic nu­dity, which has di­vided By­ron Bay res­i­dents for decades.

What he found was a dis­traught young wo­man who only min­utes be­fore had ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual as­sault, re­sult­ing in the new zero tol­er­ance nu­dity mea­sures re­cently put in place.

“The prob­lem we’ve had down there is sex­ual as­saults,” he said.

“I went down there (Tya­garah Lakes) just over a week ago and a young wo­man ran up to me in tears.

“She was ob­vi­ously very dis­tressed and she said a male stranger had come up to her and mas­tur­bated in front of her.

“When I saw the state of the wo­man, it hit hard and I knew we had to do some­thing.”

Given the zero tol­er­ance pol­icy was in­tro­duced to re­duce or stop sex­ual as­saults, Mr Star­ling said his in­struc­tions to By­ron Bay of­fi­cers was to en­force with dis­cre­tion.

“My in­struc­tion to po­lice as of last week was zero tol­er­ance with com­mon sense,” he said. “They have dis­cre­tionary power.”

Even be­fore the zero tol­er­ance pol­icy was rolled out, lo­cals ques­tioned whether the penal­ties were too harsh.

A By­ron Bay wo­man, who wished to be re­ferred to only as Max­ine, was slapped with a $500 fine for skinny dip­ping at the Lakes with a friend on Satur­day, Jan­u­ary 20, de­spite the area be­ing se­cluded and nude swim­ming com­mon.

There is sig­nage in the area stat­ing nu­dity would be pe­nalised $500 for be­ing “of­fen­sive be­hav­iour.”

“The fine is for of­fen­sive be­hav­iour – I’m 56 for God’s sake – how can some­one swim­ming naked be fined $500 for of­fen­sive be­hav­iour?” she said. “What’s of­fen­sive? For some­thing to be of­fen­sive, some­one had to be of­fended and no­body was of­fended.”

Nine days af­ter Max­ine’s fine, two men were given the same penalty for hav­ing sex on the beach in pub­lic.

At that time By­ron Bay Mayor Si­mon Richard­son told News Corp the fine seemed ex­ces­sive.

“If there is an el­derly cou­ple or a young cou­ple hav­ing a skinny dip, I’d like po­lice to feel they have the power to as­cer­tain whether that is an of­fence or not, and give them a warn­ing,” he said.

Given Max­ine was sim­ply swim­ming nude, she said her pun­ish­ment was far too harsh. “It’s (nude swim­ming) just a beau­ti­ful thing to be able to do,” she said.

“When you’re nude and swim­ming around other peo­ple who are con­nected to na­ture as well, it’s no big deal.

“No­body is look­ing at each other’s bod­ies, it’s just a beau­ti­ful free­dom. It’s just some­thing that is our right and in our area peo­ple have swum naked for a long, long time – this is not a new thing.

“It’s so un-By­ron Bay, it’s so in­tol­er­ant, it’s ex­ces­sively puni­tive.”

Mr Star­ling said while he couldn’t com­ment on the de­ci­sion of the of­fi­cers who is­sued Max­ine’s fine, he did feel it’s a no-win sit­u­a­tion.

“We’ve spo­ken to coun­cil and com­mu­nity mem­bers and for ev­ery per­son that doesn’t like the leg­is­la­tion there’s some­one who sup­ports it,” he said.

“We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

“It’s a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion but at the end of the day our job is to en­sure the com­mu­nity is as safe as pos­si­ble.”

THE FINE IS FOR OF­FEN­SIVE BE­HAV­IOUR – I’M 56 FOR GOD’S SAKE ... WHAT’S OF­FEN­SIVE? MAX­INE

Pic­ture: MIKE BATTERHAM

Po­lice of­fi­cers pa­trol the Tya­garah Lakes area yes­ter­day. Be­low: Max­ine with the fine she re­ceived there last month.

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